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2009 Off-Season Injury Report - Tight Ends
Philip Gentles
June 8, 2009
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Dan Campbell, NO – Partially Torn MCL

Saints’ TE Dan Campbell partially tore the medial collateral ligament in his knee during practice last week and he is scheduled to undergo surgery that will keep him sidelined 6 – 8 weeks. Campbell told reporters that if the surgery goes well he could be back as early as the start of training camp. Campbell is a blocking tight end and has no fantasy value. Billy Miller and Jeremy Shockey will do battle to see who will be the Saints’ primary pass-catching tight end.

Antonio Gates, SD – Severe High Ankle Sprain / Strained Achilles’ Tendon / Sprained Big Toe

Chargers’ TE Antonio Gates, who played through a number of injuries including a sprained big toe, strained Achilles’ tendon and a severe high ankle sprain, continues to be held out of team drills and practices however he said that he is feeling much better and that he expects to be fine by training camp. Gates told reporters that his ankle and Achilles’ tendon are both healed. Unfortunately his toe remains an issue. According to reports Gates’ big toe remains sore, and although he claims that his toe is “structurally fine” it’s definitely becoming a concern since he has had plenty of time to heal.  Gates appears to be optimistic and team officials aren’t openly worried, but we are going to have to wait and see what happens when training camp begins.

Todd Heap, BAL – Lingering Lower Back Stiffness

Ravens’ veteran TE Todd Heap continues to be bothered by a stiff lower back, however he is showing signs of improvement and head coach John Harbaugh says that he is close to being cleared for team drills. Heap injured his lower back in January during the playoffs and the injury lingered throughout the off-season and into the team’s first OTA. Heap has since resumed individual work but he remains sidelined during team drills. Harbaugh mentioned that the injury was taking longer to heal than the team had expected, however he indicated that there is a chance he could be allowed to practice with the team before the June minicamp closes. There is no doubting Heap’s talent, but he’s been one of the least durable tight ends in the NFL over the last couple of seasons making him a draft day gamble.

Steve Heiden, CLE – ACL and MCL Surgery

Browns’ TE Steve Heiden, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament in his knee at the end of last season, is still in the middle of rehab and he admitted to reporters that there was still not timetable set for his return. Heiden underwent major knee reconstruction in December and he is reportedly doing well in his recovery. However he isn’t close to being ready to practice and he probably won’t be cleared to return until sometime in late August. The coaching staff reportedly likes what Heiden brings to the offense, but he will be a step slower at the start of the regular season so don’t be surprised if he is non-factor early.

Randy McMichael, STL – Fractured Tibia and Torn Ankle Ligament

The Rams expect TE Randy McMichael, who was placed on Injured Reserve last season after breaking the tibia in his leg and tearing a ligament in his ankle, to be a big part of their offense this year. According to reports McMichael was sidelined for 6 weeks after getting hurt in October and he spent the early part of the off-season working on strengthening his leg with the training staff. He was able to return to full workouts in May and it looks like he is finally back to full strength. He’ll be ready for the start of training camp.  

Zach Miller, OAK – Sports Hernia Surgery

Raiders’ TE Zach Miller was absent from several of the team’s early minicamps and the team didn’t indicate why. But it was recently revealed that Miller underwent sports’ hernia surgery during the off-season. He was again on the sidelines during May workouts however he was finally cleared this month and he was back on the field with teammates last week. Miller said that his groin is feeling a lot better and team officials expect him to be ready for the start of training camp.

L.J. Smith, BAL – Lingering Groin Soreness

The Ravens’ brought in former Eagles’ TE L.J. Smith this off-season as insurance for the oft-injured Todd Heap. Smith has a history for injury problems himself but he appeared to be in pretty good health when he was signed. But he has missed a number of recent practices because of soreness in his groin and there is concern that he might not be 100% when training camp begins. According to reports his current groin issues are related to the sports hernia surgery he had back in 2007. Smith has dealt with problems on and off in his groin area since that surgery and the medical staff is becoming increasingly concerned. There are reports that Smith might need additional surgery to fix the problem, but if he did that now he would probably miss the start of the regular season. The emergence of rookie Davone Drew could make that decision easier. Drew has impressed the coaching staff with his speed and pass-catching ability. If he improves his blocking he could get a lot of playing time and possibly supplant Heap as the team’s primary tight end.

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